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Washington, District of Columbia
July 28, 2012
July 31, 2004
There are three Teaism locations in D.C., but the one handiest to the Mall is located on the corner of 8th and D street, NW. It’s an oasis for Congressional interns, college students, museum curators, and suchlike, a refreshing change of pace from the tourist-driven eateries on the Mall. The décor is peaceful, the lighting is dim, and, if you snag a spot by the koi pond, the sound of water is soothing.
Essentially Japanese in inspiration, but with a Pan-Asian cuisine, the concept behind Teaism is simple: offer the world’s best teas in a tranquil setting and provide affordable, choice foods to complement them. A gentle word of warning: don’t go here expecting to find the standard ‘chicken Caesar salad’ chain-restaurant fare. Instead, prepare yourself for something new. Be adventurous.
Recently, I sampled a drink intriguingly named "Zhen Zhou Pearls," also known as "Bubble Tea" in Taiwan. It’s a delightful tea-and-milk concoction that features pearl-sized dark tapioca balls and is served with an oversized straw large enough to sip them. Sound yucky? It’s not. Just barely sweetened and served over ice, it’s unexpectedly appealing, the soft, chewy pearls contrasting nicely with the milky tea.
The quintessential Teaism meal is, of course, the bento box. I’ve had salmon and chicken-based bento boxes here, the compartments containing a nice balance of salads, soy noodle dishes, and piquant slices of pickled ginger. There are also Tandoori items, such as Naan bread, though not the puffy Indian restaurant version but lightly brushed with oil and grilled. And I always have edamame, lightly steamed green soy beans served in their pods.
Try seaweed salad, a not too salty but undeniably so blend of chopped cellophane rice noodles, crisp seaweed, red pepper flakes, and sesame seeds. Faintly crunchy and rubbery at the same time, this is another dish that is more enjoyable than it sounds. A bigger surprise, however, is the sweet potato salad. When most Americans think ‘sweet potato,’ they think of something awash in brown sugar, butter, and, perhaps, marshmallow topping. Instead, imagine unalloyed chunks of cooked sweet potato, served chilled with a creamy fermented soy dressing.
That’s right. Fermented soy. Before wrinkling your nose in disgust, give it a try. It’s quite liberating, actually, and goes surprisingly well with Dragon Well green tea, my favorite (so far) of the twenty-five teas on offer.
Insider Tip: To get a feel for Washington’s culinary internationalism and sophistication, get at least a few blocks away from the Mall to dine.
From journal Entomological Excursions
April 8, 2003
The star here is tea, and they offer a variety of black, green, and white tea as well as tisanes (herbal teas) and Chai. They offer both a traditional and an Asian Afternoon tea and wonderful cookies, scones, and desserts, as well as some cold drinks and even cocktails. No coffee, though, this is a NO Starbucks' zone!
If you want to find a meal here, there are a number of interesting options. They have Japanese Bento Boxes (with several small dishes served in a sectioned box), Ochazuke, a Japanese rice and tea soup is available, as are a number of small dishes like soup and vegetable tempura.
Sandwiches inclue a very good portobello sandwich, and a couple others, and big dishes include curries (Thai, Indian, Japanese), an Udon dish, grilled duck, chinese noodle salad, and much more, including Ostrich burger. I like the variety of vegetarian options because I get to linger over the menu, but Mark, my husband, likes it because it is yummy.
Teaism Penn Quarter is near the Navy Memorial at the Archives/Navy Memorial stop on the green and yellow lines. It is also only about four blocks from the Gallery Place/Chinatown stop on the Red Line.
From journal Wonderful Washington DC